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#3384: Haitian Party Official Killed As Election Looms (fwd)


Friday April 28 2:08 PM ET 

 Haitian Party Official Killed As Election Looms

 By Jennifer Bauduy

 PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (Reuters) - Assailants armed with axes and
machetes hacked to death a Haitian political party official less than a
month before the Caribbean nation's long-delayed national election, a
party leader said Friday. Ducertain Armand, 70, was killed late Tuesday
by a unknown group of people who broke into his home in Thomazeau, a
town northeast of the capital, said Marie-France Claude, the
Port-au-Prince mayoral candidate for the Haitian Christian
 Democratic Party (PDCH). ``This was a political assassination,'' Claude
said.About a dozen political killings have occurred in the past month in
Haiti and several politicians, journalists and human rights activists
have gone into hiding. The troubled Caribbean nation is scheduled to
hold its first national vote in more than three years on May 21. Haiti
is struggling to establish a stable democracy after decades of
dictatorship and military rule. Elections for legislative and municipal
posts have been delayed three times by logistical problems in
registering more than 4 million eligible voters. A political crisis has
largely crippled the government during the last three years, delaying
millions of dollars in needed foreign aid. President Rene Preval
dissolved parliament 15 months ago and has been ruling by decree since.
 A leading electoral official warned Thursday that the May elections are
in jeopardy. ``If in the coming days popular organizations continue to
promote violence, to destroy the cars of honest citizens, if fires
continue to destroy property ... the elections, intended to change the
economic and social situation of the nation, will not take place,'' Leon
Manus, president of the Provisional Electoral Council, said at a
 meeting with political parties. Preval succeeded Haiti's first freely
elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, in 1996. Political opponents
of Preval and Aristide have accused the two of trying to delay the
legislative vote until late this year when Haiti is scheduled to hold
 presidential elections. Aristide, Haiti's most popular politician, is
widely expected to run for and win the presidency. If the two elections
are held together, his opponents say, candidates of Aristide's Lavalas
Family party will have a better chance of capturing control of
parliament on his coattails.
 Armand, a regional campaign director in Thomazeau for Claude's sister,
senate candidate Marie-Denise Claude, had reported receiving death
threats. ``I am scared -- this is a signal to us. How can the elections
take place in this climate?'' said Marie-France Claude, whose father,
PDCH founder Silvio Claude, was murdered in a 1991 army coup that
overthrew Aristide. A U.S.-led multinational invasion force restored
Aristide to power in 1994.